Today I want to talk about responsibility. This is a very tricky subject with many layers so this will be an on-going conversation. But today, I will start with my basic theory on responsibility.
Melanie’s Theory on Responsibility:
When it comes to responsibility, there are basically 3 types of people in the world.
Group 1: People who don’t like responsibility and want no part of taking any. No matter what is happening, it is not their responsibility and they are not going to participate in anything that involves prevention, problem solving or taking corrective action. They feel like victims in their life and everyone else around them is to blame for how they are feeling and what is happening to them. They believe nothing is their fault. “It’s his fault . . . her fault . . . . your fault . . . . society’s fault . . . . God’s fault . . . . I don’t know, but it certainly isn’t my fault and somebody better fix it for me.”
Group 2: People who are really good at taking responsibility. They are so good at taking responsibility that they naturally take on responsibility for the people around them. “You don’t want to deal with that? Sure, I can do it.” “You can’t handle this? Okay, bring that over here.” They walk though life taking ownership of tasks and emotional responses for the people they care about and are responsible for supporting. I call them Overly Helpful, Super Responsible, Caretaking Kind of People.
Group 3: People who understand where the responsibility boundaries are and can hold them, even with the people they love. “That is yours to take care of and this is mine. Yours . . . Mine. I won’t take mine over there and you won’t bring yours over here.”
I know these are really broad generalizations, but my many years (decades, as someone recently pointed out) of working with people from all walks of life have shown me that everyone falls into one of these categories as their primary way of coping with responsibility.
Have you identified yourself yet?
The interesting thing I have noticed over the years of working with people is that the people in the first group and the people in the second group always find each other. It’s like magnets pulling them together. It seems like it would be a match made in heaven, right? People who don’t want responsibility paired with people who are really good at taking responsibility.
The problem with this pairing is that the people who don’t want any responsibility begin to feel pissy and resentful toward the people who are really good at taking responsibility because they begin to see them as: controlling, bossy, bitchy, oppressive, micromanaging, parental . . . etc.
The people who are really good at taking responsibility begin to feel pissy and resentful toward the people who don’t want any because they begin to see them as: lazy, weak, childish, entitled, free loading, taking advantage of . . . . etc.
So, why am I sharing this with you? Many of the business owners I meet are really good at taking responsibility. They are the Overly Helpful, Super Responsible, Caretaking Kind of People who take on responsibility for the tasks and emotional responses of their employees, customers, partners, family members and friends. They hire people they know they shouldn’t because they want to give them an opportunity and they keep people they should fire because everyone deserves a second chance. They regularly sacrifice their time and compromise on their fees for their clients because the person is desperate. They say “yes” when they really want to say “no” because no one else will do it . . . . or it’s the right thing to do . . . . or it will make the other person really happy . . . . or (insert reason here).
They are the problem solvers, superheroes, knights in shining armor, clean-up crew and ultimate “go to” gal for everyone in their life. While this can be a gratifying role for awhile, it will eventually leave you feeling exhausted, burned out and resentful. Your life, your business and your happiness will suffer. I know this from working with many, many super responsible people AND from being one myself. For me and my clients, learning to set boundaries and let others be responsible for their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors has changed life, business and level of happiness more than we ever could have imagined.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please post them below.
You are SO spot on! We have known each other for quite a while. I used to be a #2…I am definitely now a #3! The great thing is that I was never a #1. I think that, as a society, we have created an entire generation of children who are a #1…mainly because we were a #2.
I was jumping up and down reading your article. Everything is so true. I have learned to take responsibility for Me…and only me. Others choices are just that, their choices! I didn’t make those choices so the result of those choices is not my problem or issue. I could go on and on. And, I see it just about every day.
Oh…and I LOVE telling people “No”!
Thanks for a great article.
Thank you, Linda!! It makes life so much easier and much more enjoyable when you let other people be responsible for themselves!! You are a walking example of how setting boundaries and saying “no” can change your life and propel your business forward!!